Would that today you might Fast
so as to make your voice heard on high!
Day 3: Friday after Ash Wednesday – Isaiah 58:4
Would that today you might Fast so as to make your voice heard on high!
Today’s Reading: Isaiah 58:1-9
Cry out full-throated and unsparingly,
lift up your voice like a trumpet blast;
Proclaim to my people their transgression,
to the house of Jacob their sins.They seek me day after day,
and desire to know my ways,
Like a nation that has done what is just
and not abandoned the judgment of their God;
They ask of me just judgments,
they desire to draw near to God.
“Why do we fast, but you do not see it?
afflict ourselves, but you take no note?”
See, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits,
and drive all your laborers.
See, you fast only to quarrel and fight
and to strike with a wicked fist!
Do not fast as you do today
to make your voice heard on high!
Is this the manner of fasting I would choose,
a day to afflict oneself?
To bow one’s head like a reed,
and lie upon sackcloth and ashes?
Is this what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
Authentic Fasting That Leads to Blessing
Is this not, rather, the fast that I choose:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking off every yoke?
Is it not sharing your bread with the hungry,
bringing the afflicted and the homeless into your house;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own flesh?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: “Here I am!”
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the accusing finger, and malicious speech;
If you lavish your food on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
Then your light shall rise in the darkness,
and your gloom shall become like midday…
Today’s Lenten Reflection
Fasting is one of those spiritual practices that either people “get” or they don’t really understand at all. Some people Fast for spiritual practices year-round, while others Fast for more external reasons (i.e to lose weight). Others still simply won’t Fast at all. Those who do Fast vary in degree. Some Fast for Lent, others don’t. Some Fast primarily from food, others Fast from daily activities such as social media, sports, etc. The truth is, any type of Fast has the potential of benefitting our lives so long as our heart motives are rightly-ordered toward God and His will.
As we read in today’s reading from Isaiah, if we Fast yet turn around and treat someone badly we might as well forget about any positive effects coming from our Fast. Fasting for God is so much more than simply skipping a meal or favorite activity. It must be linked to true biblical motives and practice. In doing so, Fasting has the power to transform us from the inside out. And that’s exactly what it is meant to do. If, say, we Fast but yet road rage on the way to work or act rude to our co-worker when we get there, we must re-examine our Fast and what we seek to get our of it. If we skip dinner or our nightly glass of wine but spend the evening gossiping or writing rude comments on Facebook, we’re better off Fasting from the gossip than from the food or alcohol. The point is, it is easy to Fast from food; it is much more challenging to Fast from ungodly behaviors that lead to overindulgence (and unanswered prayers!) in the first place.
Day 3 Lenten Meditation
Are you incorporating any type of Fasting into your Lenten journey? If so, how might you make that practice less about what you are giving up and more about where you are trying to go with it? No doubt you want the practice to help you go deeper in your relationship with God, to clear away some of the spiritual (and physical) clutter that tends to fill up every last space of your interior life, and to make more room for the Divine. Today, see what it feels like to go without something — coffee, social media, sweets, a whole meal — and use that time that you would have spent on the habit to direct your energy toward something positive for God. Say a powerful prayer, read a spiritually uplifting book, take a walk and pray for your loved ones and those most in need. In other words, make your Fast matter! Make it powerful and effective for not only your life but also in the lives of others around you. Oh, and don’t forget about almsgiving! You’ll take that power to another level.
God of abundance, show us how to find riches in the scarcity of Fasting; to push aside the unnecessary and allow You to fill the spiritual void in our lives and in our souls. Heavenly Father, please forgive any divisiveness and judgmentalism within us. Give us a spirit of humility that we may always please our divine Bridegroom. Amen.
Today’s suggested Penance
*Skip a meal (or part of one) and offer it to God for the penance of souls
“You must accept your cross; if you bear it courageously, it will carry you to Heaven” –Saint John Vianney.